Discovering Story Magic

I'm definitely a plotter and a planner when it comes to my writing. At the first RWA Conference I attended in Reno, before I was published, I went to several workshops to try to find a craft method that would help me plot my books. Somehow I missed the Discovering Story Magic workshop given by Robin Perini and Laura Baker, but I stumbled across it in the handouts that I perused after the Conference. As soon as I read through the material and looked at the examples, I knew I had found a home.

A year or so after finding the DSM materials and adapting them to my writing, I found out that Robin and Laura offered the DSM class online. I wasted no time in signing up for an online week-long class that allowed us to bring current WIPs to the discussion table. One of the movies Robin and Laura use as an example is L.A. Confidential (great movie and wonderful example for their method). Robin and Laura switch off between topics/classes and are available to answer questions and review your writing as you apply the DSM techniques. The class was even more helpful than using the handouts on my own and allowed me to put the materials to better use.

I love the way this method works - begins with the characters and the inciting incident for the story, their short/long term goals, their character flaws, relationship barrier, black moment and realization. So the story builds from within the characters, which is essential for romance, and supplies you with turning points that grow from the characters instead of contrived scenes that come out of left field.

I always follow some aspect of DSM when I plan a book. If you're interested in finding out more about DSM, visit the website the DSM Website.

Are there any plotting methods you can't live without? Any recommendations for classes or great workshops you attended at a writers' conference? Would love to hear about them. You never know when something's going to click with you!


Nicole North said...

Great post, Carol! I need to look into this more. I think it's similar to what I already use.

Carly Carson said...

I haven't had any wow moments yet from workshops, but I expect I will. What I'm wondering - this always drives me crazy - why do writers in workshops, articles, etc. ALWAYS use movies for examples? They do both have plots, but in many ways writing and movie making are very different. I know how effective it is to SEE that girl get pulled under by the shark in Jaws, but how to write that effectively is the question for me. The visual element is so big a part of movies, but is entirely absent from books. If I were to take a Story Magic workshop, would it be all movie based?


Titania Ladley said...

Hi there, Carol! Each book is different for me, but in general, I think I already use a form of what you describe. But I'm going to check out the link and take a closer look. Very informative post!

Carly, good point about movies. For me though, I'm a very visual person to start with, so I love watching movies to analyze them for plot, etc. When I read, I do *see* it like a movie in my head, so it's always interesting to watch a movie and then read its book version (if there is one) by comparison.


Carol Ericson said...

Nicole, it's definitely worth checking out.

Carly, yes all their examples are from movies. This method doesn't go into how to WRITE effectively so much as how to PLOT effectively, so I think the movie examples work well. It's more about character-driven plot points that move the action forward. When I write, I often see the action in my head like a movie. I'd love to try writing a screen play one of these days.

Titania, I'm sure I don't describe the method as accurately as they do in the workshop, but was definitely a WOW moment for me when I first saw their materials.

Donna Marie Rogers said...

I haven't found any especially memorable workshops, but then I have trouble sitting through them, especially if they talk through a microphone (gives me a headache). I suspect, too, I may have ADD because I lose interest or get fidgety pretty quickly. What works best for me are the lovely plotting overnighters I do with my two best friends, Stacey & Jamie. Just Tuesday we spent the day together, and it was fantastic. We helped plot Stacey's story during lunch, mine during a stop at Starbuck's, Jamie's during dinner, then we went and saw The Ugly Truth...which was so fricken hilarious! And I'm even more in love with Gerard Butler now...LOL

Great subject, Carol, as always!

Carol Ericson said...

Donna, you're lucky to have friends like that! I don't even have a critique partner or group, and the only friend I have who writes, writes literary short stories. She neither reads nor "gets" romance, so it's hard to brainstorm with her. The other night we had dinner and I was working through my WIP with her, and when I started in about the runaway bride and her marriage of convenience (two time-honored romance hooks), she stared at me open-mouthed and asked, "do you really like that?" LOL

Natasha said...

I've heard that workshops usually use movies for examples because the chances are greater than more people would have seen the same movies as opposed to reading the same books. That's what I heard anyway.

Carol, I've heard DSM is a great workshop. I'll have to check it out. :)